Distinct Molecular Signatures (miRNAs) Identified in Spinal Fluid of Patients with Gulf War Illness and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) have found distinct molecular signatures in two brain disorders long thought to be psychological in origin -- chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and Gulf War Illness (GWI). In addition, the work supports a previous observation by GUMC investigators of two variants of GWI. The disorders share commonalities, such as pain, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and exhaustion after exercise. The study, published online on November 10, 2017 in Scientific Reports, lays groundwork needed to understand these disorders in order to diagnose and treat them effectively, says senior investigator James N. Baraniuk, MD, Professor of Medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine. Narayan Shivapurkar, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology at the medical school worked with Dr. Baraniuk on the research. Their open-access article is titled “Exercise-Induced Changes in Cerebrospinal Fluid miRNAs in Gulf War Illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Sedentary Control Subjects.” The changes in brain chemistry -- observed in levels of miRNAs that turn protein production on or off -- were seen 24 hours after subjects rode a stationary bike for 25 minutes. "We clearly see three different patterns in the brain's production of these molecules in the CFS group and the two GWI phenotypes," says Dr. Baraniuk. "This news will be well received by patients who suffer from these disorders who are misdiagnosed and instead may be treated for depression or other mental disorders." Chronic fatigue syndrome (also called myalgic encephalomyelitis, ME/CFS) affects between 836,000 and 2.5 million Americans, according to a National Academy of Medicine report. The disorder was thought to be psychosomatic until a 2015 review of 9,000 articles over 64 years of research pointed to unspecified biological causes. Still, no definitive diagnosis or treatment is available. See the Solve ME/CFS Initiative web site (http://solvecfs.org/) for more information on ME/CFS.
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